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Hatha, Astanga and Iyengar yoga styles discussed

Yoga has evolved through the centuries, bringing with its evolution many different strands and styles. It’s a common misconception that you need to be flexible to do yoga. Quite the opposite, you do yoga to become flexible.

No style is better than the other, it is simply a matter of personal preference and selecting the type that best suits your needs. There are, however, three styles of yoga that have proved to be the most popular in recent years. Hatha Yoga, which tends to be what people refer to generally as ‘yoga’, and two styles that have evolved out of Hatha: Astanga and Iyengar.

Hatha Yoga

This style of yoga is also known as Hatha Vidya and was created by Yogi Swatmarama in the 15th century in India.

Now extremely popular in the West, Hatha yoga balances the mind and body through a combination of Asanas (physical postures), Pranayama (controlled breathing) and meditation. The Asanas teach balance, poise and strength to improve the body’s physical health, while Pranayama and meditation clear the mind in pursuit of enlightenment.

Hatha yoga helps with strength, flexibility and relaxation. Some of the Asanas also benefit internal organs and can have a positive affect on certain ailments such as Diabetes, Arthritis and Hypertension, amongst other things. Equally, Pranayama can help alleviate Asthma and Bronchitis, and is a great way to relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

Astanga Yoga

This style of yoga is physically demanding and appeals to those who are already yoga practitioners. Created by Pattabhi Jois, who studied under T Krishnamacharya at the first Hatha Yoga school in the 1920s, Astanga involves working through demanding Vinyasas (a series of postures) with loud Ujjayi breathing, moving from one pose to another to build strength, stamina and flexibility.

The purpose of Vinyasa is to create heat in the body, which leads to purification through increased circulation and sweating. It also improves flexibility, which allows the student to practice advanced Asanas (poses) without risk of injury.

Some people refer to Astanga yoga as Power Yoga, and it is not recommended for beginners.

Iyengar Yoga

Another student to come from T Krishnamacharya’s school was B K S Iyengar. He developed Iyengar yoga, which is known for its use of props, such as belts and blocks, to aid the performance of Asanas (postures).

Iyengar yoga emphasizes the development of strength, stamina, balance and flexibility, as well as concentration and meditation.  By using props Iyengar is a good choice for beginners who can use the blocks, straps, benches or other aids to hold asanas more easily than they might without them. These props also allow ill or tired students to participate in yoga with less muscular effort.

Standing postures play an important part in Iyengar yoga. These asanas help increase strength in the legs, increase vitality, and improve circulation, coordination and balance. 

Unlike some other styles of yoga that encourage students to quietly follow the teacher when doing asanas, Iyengar Yoga classes are extremely verbal and instructional, and errors are actively corrected.

Courtesy of All About Yoga

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